For the past year, I've been experimenting with the concept of working less by telling myself that I only have one hour a day to get things done. This has helped me reduce the number of hours I work from 100 a week to just 20 per month. (If you want more details on how I've accomplished this, read my last article, "How To Work One Hour A Day And Have A Thriving Business.")
If you're looking for ways to effectively cut back, think about this: Sometimes the key to getting more done is simply to do less. Think about ditching these three things in order to free up more time:
Ditch Your Worst Customers
Admit it: You've got customers who generate less income than others, yet take up more of your time than they should. Maybe instead of trying to get more customers, it's time to ask, “Which customers should I eliminate?”
For me, the customers who are price-sensitive tend to be the most difficult to work with. Oscar Wilde once said, “A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” I no longer work with cynics. Instead, I give time to my value-oriented customers who prefer to focus on results rather than fees.
One strategy to consider: Ditch the 20 percent of your customers who are sucking up your time but not producing commensurate returns. This not only frees up some hours in your day; it also frees up your mental energy. I realize that when money is tight, cutting customers loose can seem like a risky proposition. But you intuitively know that attempting to keep 100 percent of your customers happy 100 percent of the time will keep you working 100 hours a week, limiting your true growth potential.
Ditch Your Lowest Return Activities
Look at the amount of work you do. Look at your to-do list. You will never get 100 percent of the work done, even if you had 200 hours in a week. And we know that, yet we still strive to get 100 percent of the work done.
Let me repeat myself: This mentality limits your growth potential!
So instead of asking, “How can I get as much done as possible?” ask yourself, “What should I stop doing?” or “What are the things I must do?” Or better yet, ask, “What's the one thing that will unlock the greatest growth potential for my business? What gives me leverage?”
Be honest with yourself. What would happen if you knocked one thing off your to-do list? Two things? Find the sweet spot where you can get the optimal return. Then delegate, automate or eliminate the rest. While it may feel like it, you're not the only one who can do most of your activities. But believing that will kill you.
In addition to my to-do list, I also have a “could do” list. These are the things I may do someday. They're often a source of inspiration because they're aspirational activities. The good news is, if you keep your to-do list small and work only on what is truly necessary, you'll have more free time for the inspiring or potentially more impactful work.
Ditch Your Stuff
Back in 1999, I made a conscious decision to downsize my life, and I did so to a great extent. In fact, I was able to get everything I owned into two boxes—literally. In doing so, I discovered there's a freedom, a liberation that comes from not having “stuff” and from being able to live the simplest life possible. When there's less clutter around you, there are fewer things to worry about. And because you’re spending less money accumulating things, you don’t have to concern yourself with making as much money. And that gives you freedom.
Instead of accumulating, what you really need to do is start appreciating.
Take a long, hard look at what you already have and where you’re spending your money. Ask yourself, “What do I really, truly need? What can I get rid of?" Then begin the process of donating, recycling or disposing of the excess. If you free up your space, you'll undoubtedly free up your mind.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, once said, “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away.”
If you're looking to create a perfect business, look at what you can stop doing before you think about what to add.
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